A Shifting Empire
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A Shifting Empire

100 Years of the Copyright Act 1911

Edited by Uma Suthersanen and Ysolde Gendreau

The 1911 Copyright Act, often termed the ‘Imperial Copyright Act’, changed the jurisprudential landscape in respect of copyright law, not only in the United Kingdom but also within the then Empire. This book offers a bird’s eye perspective of why and how the first global copyright law launched a new order, often termed the ‘common law copyright system’.
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Chapter 4: Mandatory copyright: from pre-Palestine to Israel, 1910–2007

Michael D. Birnhack


The development of copyright law in Mandate Palestine and then Israel during the past 100 years is a story of gradual absorption of a foreign concept, constantly searching for direction and guidance, slowly distancing itself from the original British roots. Copyright law was imposed first by the Ottomans and then by the British, but both foreign transplants were premature for some time. It took a while for copyright law in its legal form to resonate with the local population. Foreign players and technological developments were instrumental in the initial integration of copyright. Later on and more so in its new status as an Israeli law, the legal (trans)plant took a life of its own: although emerging from British sources, it was affected by international commitments, Continental notions of authors’ rights, then by American utilitarian-instrumentalist concepts, and finally by the reconceptualization of copyright as a subject of global trade, all mixed up with various original Israeli additions. Thus, current Israeli copyright law is a complex patchwork. A rather frustrated reading might view this as a mess. However, here I wish to retell the development of copyright law in Mandate Palestine and then Israel as a story of an ongoing search for guidance. The discussion offers a case study of legal transplants and attempts to answer Paul Edward Geller’s question ‘How do transplants work?’1 by providing a legal-historical discussion of copyright law in one particular region. The discussion begins with an inevitably brief timeline of the implementation of Ottoman (1910)

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